Gregory Gross

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Gregory 's Story
Chicago,
Illinois

For the folks at Care for Real, a food pantry in Chicago that serves a large LGBTQ community, the work is basically in the name.

“We want to provide holistic care that is based on our clients’ identity – their real self,” said the pantry’s executive director, Gregory Gross.

The pantry is open four days a week, and they recently expanded to a second location. While not everyone who visits is LGBTQ, Gregory says “quite a few” identify as part of the community.

“Historically, the LGBTQ community is vulnerable,” he said. “Many may not have a ready support system because they’ve left their homes. I think that’s why many are more at risk of facing hunger.” And, Gregory knows that asking for help can be even more difficult for the LGBTQ community, “especially now with so much anti-trans sentiment,” he said.

That’s why he and his team nurture a warm, safe, welcoming environment for all clients.

“For the LGBTQ community, we’re never assuming pronouns,” he said. “We’re always asking people how they identify, including as non-binary.”

Care for Real offers training for volunteers on asking pronouns as well. But ensuring volunteers are using correct pronouns is just the beginning of making sure clients feel welcome.

“It’s also the little things,” Gregory said. “Like saying that we have ‘menstrual’ products and not ‘feminine' hygiene products. We’re hyper-aware of the language that we use, and we’re always being really respectful with our words and actions.”

The pantry offers training for volunteers also has a volunteer greeter who is LGBTQ, who helps make clients feel more comfortable from the moment they walk through the door until they leave. And, they never discount the power of a simple smile.

“We always greet people with a smile,” he said. “We want to be welcoming.” As a gay man, Gregory is honored to be ensuring the LGBTQ community has the resources they need.

“We’re providing a safe space and serving the queer community, of which I’m a part. It gives me a tremendous sense of pride.”

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